Sluice gates shut for more than 3,000 lakes in RR district

What caused it: Major sluices of the Gurram Cheruvu at Balapur were encroached upon, which led to breach of the lake and inundation of Hafiz Baba Nagar.  

An expedient decision two decades ago pertaining to lakes in erstwhile Ranga Reddy district proved costly during recent floods that drowned several localities in GHMC limits and surrounding municipalities.

Orders passed by the district administration over 20 years ago to shut down the sluice gates of several lakes in the district for good, has had repercussions much later, as the officials struggled in vain to open them at every lake that brimmed dangerously owing to the recent spate of excessive rainfall.

Sluice gates of thousands of lakes in the district were shut between 1998 and 2002, a good number with concrete, in order to conserve water during the trying drought conditions prevalent back then.

According to Irrigation department officials, the sluices of more than 3,000 lakes in the district were closed for good, with a view to save the precious resource for essential purposes.

As per the orders, all lakes with less than 100 acres of irrigated extent were to be shut down, and no water there of should be exploited for irrigation. All such lakes were brought under the Panchayat Raj department, and only 250 plus lakes under which the ayacut was over 100 acres, were left with the Irrigation department.

“It was a well meaning decision back then, considering the severe scarcity of drinking water and cattle fodder. Farmers lifted the gates for their requirement, and left them open with no regard for water wastage. The district authorities intended to conserve the water so that ground reserves got recharged in the surrounding localities, solving the drinking water and fodder issues,” shared an official.

During recent floods, scores of lakes in the district overflowed, and with their weirs and surplus channels blocked or encroached upon by colonies and bastis during the intervening years, the only hope left was the sluices.

“Weirs and not the sluices are designed to drain the excess water. Sluices are designed to release controlled flows for irrigation purpose, and their outflow capacity is very low compared with that of the weir. But everywhere, weirs were blocked and surplus courses were heavily constructed, leaving us no choice,” another official said.

While even the sluice courses were thickly occupied by colonies, opening them would not have resulted in devastation as the outflows were meagre. It was a desperate measure looked upon by the officials as the last recourse to save the lakes from breaching. It was, however, not to be so simple.

At Fox Sagar lake, they had to camp for over a week before they could work the sluice open. And in cases such as Gurram Cheruvu lake, which had breached the bund creating midnight mayhem, the sluice was buried under tonnes of debris and soil dumped by land grabbers, and levelled using heavy machinery. While the officials struggled in vain with the weir, the lake surged forth.

At Burhan Khan lake upstream of Gurram Cheruvu, officials were under pressure to drain the lake, but could not work the sluice open.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2020 9:24:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/sluice-gates-shut-for-more-than-3000-lakes-in-rr-district/article32958532.ece

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